Tattoos are a constant source of fascination, controversy, disapproval and admiration. They’ve gone from being a stamp of military courage and blue-collar indignation, to the number one identifying symbol for a hipster. I’ve never known quite how I felt about them; at first, full of scorn inherited by my mother, later, pleased at my own recognition of tattoos as almost Buddhist signs of the acceptance of life’s fleetingness. When I see them, I want to ask their wearer what they mean to them. Sometimes I do, and I’m never satisfied with the answer. Is it because all the cool kids are getting them? Is it a message to the world about who you really are? Is it a symbol of rebellion and non-conformity? What is it that inspires you to permanently paint your body?
A few weeks ago, my roommate asked me to keep her company while she got one of her tattoos touched up. I’d never even been in a tattoo parlor, and this was the perfect excuse. While I photographed her, I asked Jesse, the tattoo artist, my tattoo questions. He laughed at a lot of them and I felt like I was asking the owner of a clothing store why he thought people bought certain clothes. They like ‘em. They want ‘em. It’s not that big a deal, girl….